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FDA Fails to Protect Public from Chemicals

FDA Fails to Protect Public from Chemicals
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A blistering op-ed argues that the agency not only fails to ensure food safety, it fails to prevent chemical contamination of our food and cosmetics.

The op-ed, published in Environmental Health News, notes that in 2013, the FDA initiated an internal review of its chemical safety assessment program. As part of this review, FDA scientists, experts from other agencies, and outside experts were all brought in and interviewed. The consensus: FDA’s methods to evaluate the toxicity of chemicals was woefully outdated.

Among the findings of this review were that the FDA:

  • Lacks processes for identifying and managing risks of endocrine-disrupting chemicals;
  • Needs better data on effects of chemicals at low doses;
  • Lacks understanding of chronic toxicological effects;
  • Lacks adequate assessment of sensitive populations who may be at greater risk, like infants and those living in underserved communities; and
  • Needs to consider exposure to mixtures and related chemicals.

As the author points out:

One of the problems highlighted by experts within and outside of the agency is that when it comes to chemical assessments at the FDA, regulatory science is too static and has evolved little since the 1980s, despite a tremendous growth in our understanding of chemicals and their effects on the body. The FDA has maintained its predilection to adhere to precedent regardless of whether scientific advances render that precedent misguided or irrelevant.

As we’ve stated previously, as we learn more about the effects of long-term exposures to chemicals, we’re seeing the relationship between these exposures and chronic diseases like diabetes. A small change in hormone concentration—the equivalent of one drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools—is enough to have an effect on the human endocrine system, which impacts growth, metabolism, sleep, and other important bodily functions. This means that even low exposures to BPA, PFAS (so-called “forever chemicals”), and other ubiquitous endocrine disruptors could have profound human health consequences.

The problem is particularly apparent in those who have multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), which affects about 13 percent of the population. These individuals experience acute, chronic, and disabling health effects like headaches, dizziness, breathing difficulties, heart palpitations, nausea, and asthma from exposures to common chemicals and pollutants at low levels. 

We need to update how loopholes in how toxic chemicals are regulated by federal agencies, but we also need to learn how to protect ourselves from toxic exposures; see our previous coverage for more information (here, here, here, and here)

Read the full op-ed here.

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